Wednesday, July 21, 2010


We want to alert you to a new resource. Beginning in June, Giving USA Foundation’s Melissa Brown began an excellent blog about information, ideas, and recommendations for fundraising coming out of GUSA’s ongoing research. About once a week, Melissa is posting updates to giving information or new ways of looking at the data GUSA collects. We encourage you to bookmark: .

We have just returned from the Giving Institute’s Summer Symposium, our consultant association’s annual conference on best practices, trends, and forward thinking. As always, there was a session about GUSA, of which Giving Institute is the producer. Patrick Rooney, E.D. of IU’s Center on Philanthropy, who oversees the Center’s ongoing role as the research partner for Giving USA, noted that year after year, the forecast—which draws from available IRS data and uses well-tested and vetted econometric models—has had a variance of only 1-1.5%, which is astounding.

Knowing we can rely on the data, we had, as always, a deep discussion about the ways the data can be most useful to our clients, given that our resources are not unlimited. Questions to GUSA staff from Giving Institute firms, including Oram, included what the overall giving picture looks like when certain large inputs or outputs are removed. We know from the data, for example, that overall, direct individual giving (itemized gifts only), which makes up 75% of all reported giving, declined just. 0.4% last year. (Bequests are a separate story, of course.) But in a world where a handful of donors can shift the entire picture by giving large sums into investments or a few select places, we were curious what all the superb bar charts and graphs would look like if GUSA took out what we call the “super-absorbers” — the mega-gifts to mega-institutions. True to form, GUSA is ready to take up the challenge and see what they can do. Your questions can help continue to refine how this marvelous resource to all of us can continue to expand its relevance.

Stay tuned, and keep an eye on the blog. Melissa’s July 20 post concerns “Giving to Religion.”